Boko Haram, in a new video released Monday claimed that it had converted to Islam all of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, and demanded the release of imprisoned militants in return for the freedom of the kidnapped children, according to media reports.
Abubakar Shekau, the group's leader, spoke in the video obtained by Agence France-Presse, or AFP, for 17 minutes before showing what he said were about 130 of the girls, wearing a full-length hijab -- a veil covering the head and chest mostly worn by Muslim women -- and praying in an undisclosed rural location. The mass abduction of the schoolgirls last week triggered a support campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
"Praise be to Allah, the lord of the world," the girls reportedly chanted in the video, which followed comments by Reuben Abati, a special advisor to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who told Sky News that the government will not pay to secure the release of the girls "because the sale of human beings is a crime against humanity."
"The determination of the government is to get the girls and to ensure that the impunity that has brought this about is checked and punished," Abati told Sky News.
Shekau, whose group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno State on April 14 earlier said in another video that he would sell the young girls "in the market."
Kashim Shettima, governor of Borno State, reportedly said Sunday that he had information on the whereabouts of the abducted schoolgirls and had passed reports of the sightings of the girls to the military for verification. Shettima also reportedly said that he did not think that the girls had been taken across the border to Chad or Cameroon.
According to reports, Nigerian authorities have been in indirect contact with the Islamist group, while intelligence sources told Sky News that Nigeria’s neighbors -- Chad, Cameroon and Niger -- have been sending satellite images to help find the schoolgirls.
Search efforts had been reportedly hampered after two important bridges near the borders with Chad and Cameroon were destroyed by the militant group last week.
While security experts from the U.S., UK and France have been assisting Nigerian authorities in the rescue mission, Israel became the latest country Sunday to offer to assist in the search for the abducted schoolgirls while French President Francois Hollande offered to host a summit to discuss the militant group with Nigeria and its neighbors in Paris next Saturday.